Next up: “Wizard of the Grove” by Tanya Huff.
Two books in one; “Child of the Grove” and “The Last Wizard”.
Because this is two books squished into one volume, it’s a generational thing. It starts with characters who become parents of the next main character. The world is a typical fantasy setting– pseudo-medieval, mythological creatures, magic. There were once many wizards, essentially immortal beings of great power who were all, to a man, pretty dang evil. So evil, in fact, that the gods and goddesses of the world created a Doom for each of them, to finally destroy them. However, one wizard survived.
The first part of the story sets the stage for the arrival of Crystal, who is really the main character of the whole thing. We are given the history of her family on both sides– the royal side and the side that derives from the magic and ancient power of the hamadryads– and their long struggle against the wizard Kraydak. We learn firsthand that Crystal’s birth has been engineered, a long-running plot designed to provide a champion who can fight and potentially destroy Kraydak. Her life is carefully organized and administered so that she learns everything she needs to learn to be an effective weapon against him. Then finally, at the tender age of 17, she faces him in battle.
She defeats him, of course, and this is hardly a spoiler since it takes place less than half of the way through the story. The true focus of the tale is what happens after. Crystal is a burgeoning adult, and yet her whole purpose has already been fulfilled. Years of careful breeding created her, years of training honed her, and she did what she was meant to do. But what does she do afterwards? The rest of the book is an adventure story, and a journey of self-discovery. Crystal travels the world, largely alone because of her immortality and her status as the last wizard. But she does manage to make some friends, and finds some purpose with them.
Some people think this book starts too slow, but I appreciated the background the first 100 or so pages gave. It was more interesting– and gave a more complete picture– than just saying what had lead to Crystal’s birth. I wasn’t bored during it, though I do think the best part of the book is the latter half.
This was the first book I’ve read where the focus isn’t on the ‘destined battle’ but on the aftermath. It made for a unique and interesting read. It is something worth a little introspection– what happens after you’ve completed your life goals? Especially when you are a young immortal. I like that ‘seeking a purpose in life’ aspect. I liked the characters; while none of them were without at least one character trait that made me want to punch them, I could empathize with all of them. None of them are perfect people, they’re all flawed in some way, but it doesn’t detract from them or their stories.
I liked Lord Death. Even though we know from the start that the gods and goddesses of the world are sometimes active presences, I wasn’t really expecting him to be a character. And what an interesting character! It’s definitely not your typical personification of the grim reaper. I enjoyed his presence in the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story this book told. The ending is a little rushed, and is weak for it, but I wasn’t overly disappointed. I was content with it, at least.
There’s some age and consent (sexual) squick near the beginning. Nothing really terrible or graphic.